You and I both know that reading to our kids is imperative! It can also be a lot of fun. BUT it can also be incredibly frustrating when instead of sitting peacefully in our laps, our toddlers are running around like the jungle animals described in the storybook we are desperately trying to read to them.
I have finally learned that even when they look like they aren’t paying attention my kids are still hearing my words and building their vocabulary. Of course, I still miss out on the whole experience of snuggling with them while I read. I also don’t get to show them a lot of the pictures, which can help reinforce what they are hearing; an important component especially for visual learners.
Recently, Leslie Falconer, founder of Mother Goose Time Preschool Curriculum, authored the Top 5 Tips for Engaging Preschoolers During Storytime on the company’s blog. Mother Goose Time (a curriculum for whom I am thrilled to be an ambassador) does a great job of engaging young readers through stories included in their prepackaged curriculum. My family also have a few additional tips we’d love to add to the list.
First, we’d love to show you some examples of how the Mother Goose Time curriculum helps us use some of Leslie’s fabulous tips.
Tip #1 Engage their Hands
Leslie recommends giving the kids something to hold to keep their hands busy. With this past month’s curriculum theme, Discover the Desert there was a short story included called “Sahara Blue Men.” The story repetitively used the word blue. The recommendation was that each time the word blue was used the kids wave a handkerchief. We modified this suggestion a little and colored with a different shade of blue crayon each time the word blue was said during the story. Coloring while reading a story keeps my kids very engaged. Now, if I could just remember to grab my coffee before I start reading!
Tip #2 Engage their Eyes
Give them something to search out with their eyes. I just posted a quick blog post about one of our favorite participation stories from Mother Goose Time, called Why Am I Small? Our three year old was given cards included with the curriculum for each of the animals mentioned in the story to search out and identify. Our two year old was given stuffed animals and he found the animal discussed in the story at the appropriate times. You’ll also notice from this post that there is a lot of running around and playing during the story, but without question, they are 100% engaged.
Tip #3 Engage their Mouths
Give them something to say. Leslie uses the example of having them make a fun little noise each time a page is turned. At our house, we are really into animals and animal sounds. With our Fables and Folktales theme from Mother Goose Time we read the Aesop fable, “The Lion and the Mouse.” Each time the word “lion” appeared the kids roared and held their hands out like claws. Every time they heard the word “mouse” they crouched down low and squeaked in their imitation of a mouse noise.
Tip #4 Engage their Ears
Give them some variety by altering your voice to fit the story. Read with expression. Change volume or speed based on what’s happening in the story. Character voices can also be fun. The Fables and Folktales theme included a story CD with several excellent examples. Mother Goose Time also provides lots of reading material that lends itself well to reader embellishment to help engage the kids. In addition to the included participation stories described above there is a story book of the month included with each theme. An entire month’s worth of book titles is also suggested for additional reading, which we routinely gather from the library.
Tip #5 Engage their Whole Bodies
Giving kids a chance to act out the story or move like the characters can help spur interest. Our Sights and Sounds of Winter theme included an absolutely wonderful participation story called “Snow Tracks.” We created a circle path using painter’s tape (I couldn’t find the masking tape…lol) and the kids and I pretended to be the different animals mentioned in the story as we walked, ran, and hopped along the tape path. This was tons of fun and kept the kids interested and engaged in the story.
Here are two more suggestions our family uses to keep our little wigglers attention:
Tip #6 Engage their Voice
Sing the story. The easiest way to do this is to use a book that is set to song. Some of our favorites are from Barefoot Books. We love their books with singalong CDs. Using the CD we learn the song and then when we sit down to read, the kids and I or Grandma can sing the book together. Notable favorites of my two and three year old include Port Side Pirates, Driving My Tractor, and The Animal Boogie.
Tip #7 Engage their Mind
Have them write their own story. You can easily use photographs or pictures (drawn or cut from magazines) to create a book for them to narrate. There are also wordless picture books available that are incredibly fun to explore with your kids. Our favorite illustrator for wordless picture books is Alison Jay. Our current favorites of hers are Out of the Blue and Welcome to the Zoo! If you are uncomfortable without any words you could also try “I Took the Moon For a Walk.” This book still has Alison Jay’s amazing illustrations which are great at inviting commentary, but also provide just enough words to get you started.
What tips do you have for engaging kids during story time?
Please let us know we’d love to try them!